The width of the post kept Nepean from snatching a dramatic win with the final kick of the game, as Gladesville Ravens survived a heart-stopping end to the game at Cook Park.
Lexi Mavraidis had given Ravens the lead in the first half with a lofted shot that caught out Jessica Callaghan in the Nepean goal. The second half saw a contentious free-kick awarded on the Nepean left which was expertly finished by set-piece specialist Sara Malinovsky to level the scores.
The game was on a knife-edge until the very end, but the right result was a draw despite the post rescuing the point for the Ravens who almost gift-wrapped a winner for the home side.
A stiff breeze met the teams as they stepped out onto the magnificent surface of Cook Park for he first NPL game of the day. Nepean were on a run of three wins, Ravens had been struggling for goals, but this was expected to be a close game.
Nepean found their feet early and pressed the Ravens, a corner flying across the face of the goal with no one to make the final touch. The visitors though came back at Nepean with some enterprise down the right-hand side with Mavraidis providing the width and the delivery. When Alessia Rizzuto found space down the right, she dinked in a clever cross that was held by Callaghan at the feet of the in-rushing Jackie Rice. A suspicion of handball from central defender Issy Franks went unnoticed by the referee as Nepean fought back in this topsy-turvy encounter, and a low shot was spilled by Chloe Mccredie in the Ravens goal, but she gathered well at the second attempt.
Ella Moar fired in a warning shot that was fielded well by Callaghan as Ravens continued to press, Sienna Beram found room for a shot that was blocked, before the visitors took the lead with a magnificent move. Good work down the left from Franks saw the ball played in to Wroughton who switched play out to Mavraidis. The tricky winger took a touch, ran on and lifted in a shot from just inside the box, and the pace of the ball took it into the net despite a big hand from the unlucky Callaghan.
A fine save from Mccredie at the other end, pushing the ball behind for another Nepean corner, kept the lead intact. The influence of captain Despina Vasiliadis grew as the half continued, and her persistence almost released Georgina Reece, the Ravens defence living dangerously. The half-time whistle sounded with Ravens in the lead, but with the wind at their backs in the second half, Nepean would be looking to take advantage and turn the game around.
The home side dominated the early stages of the second half, and the Ravens had to be sure at the back to restrict Nepean to speculative shots from distance. Lucy Hardaker and Rizzuto were battling well, and Sienna Bell was busy down the right for the visitors. It was a soft free-kick down the left, Bell harshly adjudged to have upended her player, that set up the opportunity for Malinovsky. With the defensive wall well over the regulation ten yards, she bent a shot over and into the net for a terrific equaliser. Nepean had heir tails up now, and Ravens had to withstand intense pressure.
Daniela Cacic crossed for Amelia MacDonald who fired wide, Kiera Geoghegan then had a shot blocked when well placed, and Bell and Ava Pirozzi had their hands full protecting Mccredie from a barrage of attacks. The Ravens goalkeeper was having an excellent game, and was down well at the feet of the attacker as the home side turned the screw. There was still life in the Ravens though. Rice got into a great position down the right but could only shoot weakly, but followed it up with a great run into the area that was well saved by Callaghan. Moar bundled through two challenges to set up possibly the best chance of the second half for the visitors, but the shot was smothered at the near post. A stepover straight out of a Matildas game from Rizzuto then wowed the spectators as Ravens continued to push.
A final chance fell to the visitors when Mavraidis shot from an acute angle, Callaghan gathering right on her post at the second attempt. With the final whistle at the mercy of the referee, Mccredie fielded a cross well and went to clear. Her drop kick though was scuffed, presenting the chance to Nepean to win the game with the last kick of the game, and time stood still as the ball curled out of the reach of the stranded Mccredie before bouncing off the post and marshalled to safety by Tahlia Butcher. The crowd couldn’t believe what they had just seen as the final whistle sounded.
This was an excellent game, some great moments from both sides. The set-piece wizardry of Malinovsky was a highlight, as was the choreographed goal celebration of the Ravens.
Nepean now test their four match unbeaten run against the perfect record of Marconi Stallions, while Ravens round out their first round of games against a tough Northbridge Bulls team back at Christie Park.